The pleasure in watching films is that they allow you to experience something you would never do in real life. Films allow the viewer to step outside themselves and be a part of something they could only imagine. Small guilty pleasures that might have creeped their way into our heads that linger in us questioning “what would that be like?” I will admit just going off the grid was always a thought that would pop in my head along with just saying nothing and just leaving my job; I’ll find it hard to believe if no one has had that idea before.
In Robin Swicord’s film Wakefield Bryan Cranston’s (Breaking Bad, Malcom in the Middle) character Howard decides to say goodbye to everything he has ever known. It is an interesting concept in that although I do not have a wife and kids myself I am sure there have been experiences where situations force people to reevaluate their lives and question themselves. On the surface it seems Howard is just sick of his job and his mundane life style so much that even sex with his wife played by Jennifer Garner (Alias, 13 Going on 30) has grown its course. One night Howard decides to go upstairs of his garage and watch his wife and daughters through the window; innocently he falls asleep and wakes up late the next morning. What happens next is Howard’s evolution, maybe even de-evolution, into something else.
Howard begins to watch the day to day events of his family as they worry about him not returning. Howards reassures himself that he is still right there and hasn’t left them; he does this even after they consider Howard dead and have a wake for him. It’s in these scenes that Cranston shows his comedic side as he narrates the events taking place to himself, making up dialogues and imaging what it would be like to just walk back in the house. Although her role small Garner is able to capture the pain and grief a wife would have after losing a husband. Seen through Howard’s eyes Garner has to embody the suffering Diana is going through in small glimpses.
Howard says he could never go back to his real life in that trying to explain everything would be enough to discourage him from thinking of it. He embraces his new life and becomes accustomed to his new routine of knowing the right time to pilfer from the neighbor’s garbage, when to sneak in a good shower and how to avoid Russian henchmen from getting the best street items. Howard feels himself one with the environment and it is in this I believe his character begins to go into more of a primal animal state. Similar to any animal he has established his domain. Howard knows the best routes and times to hunt for items so that he won’t be discovered; he maintains a low profile and does not back down when confronted.
When the film reaches its climax it is pushed forward because of a threat to Howard’s space. It is in this non-direct confrontation that pushes Howard forward to re-evaluate what is important. In the end I thought Cranston did a very impressive job of portraying Howard. There is so much depth to the character that at first I would laugh at some of his actions but by the end I could not help but think of what a completely selfish, manipulative ass he was. When he considers himself at his most primal I truly believe he has lost any true compassion as a human being that is if there was any to begin with. Throughout the film we see flashbacks from Howard and Diana’s lives and how they got to where they are; by the end of them I could not help but think Howard was really deprived emotionally in that his actions were all self-fulfilling.
Swicord brings a very twisted view of a man who has lost his way both mentally and spiritually. It is through Cranston’s dominant performance that we can question Howard’s motives and true desires. At first it may seem as if Wakefield would have a simple plot but when really looked at and dissected it is the story of a man who has amassed the identity of a well to do family man only to be used as a mask for his own inability to be honest with himself.
3.5 out of 5
Film Releases Friday May 19th in NYC at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema w/ a special Q&A with actor Bryan Cranston on Fri (5/19) & Sat (5/20) both at the 7pm showing Tickets available here
Film will then roll out to LA & VOD on Friday May 26th